What people in the United States lack in authentic German cuisine and festivities during the month of October, they gain in time dedicated to soaking up the month-and-a-half-long celebration of pint-clutching and dirndl-wearing that is Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest is a German tradition dating back to the early 19th century. When the soon-to-be King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, they invited the citizens of Munich to partake in the royal festivities, including horse races, carousels and, shockingly, a limited number of beer stands. The celebration has since traversed German borders and blossomed in other corners of the world, even in mid-Missouri. Contrary to its name, Munich’s Oktoberfest actually begins in mid-September and ends by the beginning of October. Celebrations in the U.S., however, use the festival’s name as an opportunity to down countless brews and dress up in customary German garb throughout the entire month of October.
Typically, towns such as Columbia don’t adopt the ancestral horse racing and “boost” to Bavarian agriculture that the celebration was originally intended to provide. Cities such as Covington, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Hermann, Missouri, which is about an hour east of Columbia, host some of the most extravagant Oktoberfests in the U.S.
Although Columbia doesn’t go all out, it has its own way of doing Oktoberfest. We’re here to help you celebrate the fest season in the most close-to-Munich way Columbia (and the surrounding towns) have to offer.
(Don't worry, there will be plenty of brew to go around.)
Something fun and pretty German
Hofbrau Happy Hour at Günter Hans, Oct. 12
You can buy a $3 pint (or a liter, if you’re really in the mood) of Hofbräu Oktoberfest, and, for the first 30 guests only, you’ll get to add a new beer stein to your collection. Günter Hans only has the Oktoberfest brew through the end of the festivities. That is, of course, if they can keep it in stock. The delivery truck only delivers a certain number of kegs to the gastropub, so once they’re out, you’ll have to wait until next year.
Logboat Masskrugstemmen at Günter Hans, Oct. 13
When Günter Hans meets Logboat Brewing Co., you’ve got a match made in heaven. The two will collaborate in a liter-holding contest. The first 50 guests to sign up will battle for Logboat “swag,” a Günter Hans gift card and bragging rights. Plus, you get to keep the stein. If you’re not into the sport of beer holding, take it easy with one of Logboat’s five tried-and-true brewskis or try a taste of its limited seasonal option.
Oktoberfest in the Biergarten, Oct. 15, 7-10 p.m.
Featuring different Oktoberfest brews from different breweries — Hofbräu, Paulaner and Dinkelacker are on the radar — Günter Hans’s patio will host the final fest of the season with an emphasis on the beer and the good times that come with the centuries-long Bavarian holiday. “This is our one last hurrah,” says Lydia Melton, owner of Günter Hans. “After that, we won’t get any more in.”
Something a little more low-key
Swing by The Heidelberg, a classic Columbia eatery just off 9th, for the perfect excuse to indulge in some simple brews of German descent. Currently on tap:
Paulaner Oktoberfest: The official beer of Oktoberfest and only brewed for the festivities, this beer has a sweet malt taste and light hops.
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale: Only available August to September, the ale blends the harvest spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove with a sweet and malty foundation.
Something a little farther
Rocheport Oktoberfest I, Oct. 22
With Off Track Events’ first Rocheport Oktoberfest celebration comes beer, brats and Big Hungry Kettle Corn. That’s not all there is to look forward to, though. The day will be filled with folk and Americana music by local bands such as Mercer & Johnson, The Kay Brothers and The Woodsmiths. “One of our big focuses is on encouraging people to walk through the town of Rocheport,” says Colin LaVaute, event director of Off Track Events. “There are so many cool shops to see.”
Rocheport Oktoberfest II, October 29
The following weekend, hop into the Monster Bike Bash 2016 line-up, and take a ride with your fellow goblins and ghouls from Columbia to Rocheport. Bikers will wear their costumes, so be prepared to participate in the costume contest for a chance to win a $250 cash prize. If you prefer not to bike, you can drive or take a shuttle, thanks to Off Track Events. Rock and blues beats from local bands and artists will provide the soundtrack for the evening’s festivities.